The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is caused by HIV-virus manifested by opportunistic infections and/or malignancies, and the mortality rate is very high. The syndrome results from a breakdown of the body's disease-fighting mechanism that leaves it defenceless against infections, such as pulmonary tuberculosis, Pneumocystis pneumonia, certain blood infections, candidiasis, invasive cervical cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma or any of over 20 other indicator diseases. No effective treatment is available. A striking feature of AIDS is the wide spectrum and frequency of infections with life-threatening pathogens seldom seen in normal hosts. The illness may begin with insidious signs and symptoms, and the process may be more diffuse than when the same conditions are seen in other immune-compromised patients. Four patterns of disease occur in AIDS patients. The pulmonary pattern, the central nervous system pattern, the gastrointestinal pattern, and the pattern of fever of unknown origin. Most patients who recover from a given opportunistic infection subsequently either have a relapse or develop a new type of infection. Many patients continue to have a wasting syndrome and experience such infections as oral thrush. Feelings of depression and isolation are common among AIDS patients and can be intensified if health care workers display fear of the syndrome.
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